AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Pasadena Pops, Cal Phil to open summer seasons

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

This article was first
published today in the above papers.

 

Contrary to what a well-known critic at the 300-pound
gorilla on Spring St. wrote a couple of weeks ago, there’s a lot more to
summertime music in Southern California than Hollywood Bowl (although I will
discuss the Bowl season in two weeks).

 

Consider the Pasadena Pops and the California Philharmonic,
which kick off their 2011 summer campaigns during the next fortnight, each
offering programs of amiable music and the opportunity for enjoying munching
and music under the stars (even if the latter aren’t always visible in the
ozone).

 

The Pops returns to The Lawn Adjacent to the Rose Bowl with
four concerts beginning this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. when guest conductor Michael
Krajewski leads a program celebrating the 125th anniversary of Pasadena that
includes a fireworks display. The program has both classical selections –
Rossini’s William Tell overture and
Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture — and a
healthy selection of familiar pops fare as well, including God Bless America, 76 Trombones and (appropriately enough) Everything’s Coming Up Roses.

 

Krajewski is a major figure in the world of Pops orchestras;
he’s the principal pops conductor of the Houston Symphony and the Jacksonville
Symphony Orchestra, and is the first person to hold that title with the Atlanta
Symphony Orchestra.

 

On July 23, one of the world’s most decorated
composer-conductor figures, Marvin Hamlisch makes his first appearance as the
Pasadena Pops’ principal pops conductor when he leads the first of three
concerts that will conclude the 2011 season. Hamlisch is one of just two people
to have been awarded Emmys
(he’s won four), Grammys
(four), Oscars
(three), and a Tony
plus a Pulitzer
Prize
(the other to capture that quartet is Richard Rodgers). Hamlisch
has also won three Golden Globes.

 

In recent years, Hamlisch (who attended The Juillard School
and graduated from Queens College) has focused more on conducting. In addition
to his new Pasadena post, he is principal pops conductor for the
Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Dallas, Seattle and San Diego symphony orchestras.

 

In the three concerts at the Rose Bowl, Hamlisch will focus
on what he knows best: his own music on July 23, Broadway on Aug. 6 and motion
pictures on Aug. 27.

 

Information: 626/ 793-7172; www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

 

Meanwhile, Music Director Victor Vener and the Cal Phil open
their summer series on June 25 at 7:30 p.m. in the Los Angeles County Arboretum
with the return of “Beethoven and the Beatles.” The program repeats the
following afternoon at 2 p.m. in Walt Disney Concert Hall. Soloists are “The
Fab Four,” a group that looks like the Beatles and does its best to sound like
them, too. The Beethoven is the Egmont
Overture
and Symphony No. 5.

 

The back-to-back concert pattern continues for remainding
four programs except for the second one — “Andrew Lloyd Webber meets Puccini”
(another of Vener’s tried and true oldie-but-goodie offerings) — when the
Disney Hall concert is on July 3 and the Arboretum event is July 9.

 

The balance of the season is July 23/24 (“Dancing Under the
Stars,” with a mix of classical and popular selections); Aug. 6-7 (“Rodgers and
Hammerstein in Europe,” a curious title since the music includes South Pacific and Oklahoma, neither of which were set in Europe); and Aug. 23-24
(“That’s Entertainment”). 

Information:
626/300-8200 ; www.calphil.org

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

NEWS AND LINKS: Major shakeup at Salzburg Easter Festival

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

 

The Salzburg Easter Festival, one of Europe’s most
prestigious music events, has announced that it’s severing ties with the Berlin
Philharmonic after a 45-year run. The Dresden State Orchestra, led by Christian
Thielmann, will become the festival’s principal orchestra beginning in 2013.
The Berlin ensemble’s last appearance at the Easter Festival will be next year,
led by its music director, Sir Simon Rattle.

 

According to a published report, Festival director Peter
Alward said his organization would not agree to a demand from the BPO to stage
four opera performances instead of two MORE.

 

Thanks to Opera Chic for
the heads up.

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

SAME-DAY REVIEW AND COMMENTARY: Los Angeles Philharmonic in movie theaters

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

______________________

 

Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor; Renaud Capuon,
violin, Gautier Capuon,
cello

Brahms: Double Concerto; Symphony No. 4

Friday, June 3, 2011 Walt Disney Concert Hall

Sunday, June 5, 2011 Alhambra Renaissance Theater

______________________

 

Much like Pittsburgh, Penn., where the Allegheny and Monongahela meet to form
the Ohio River, today’s Los
Angeles Philharmonic concerts marked the confluence of several things. Today
was:

the end of the Phil’s 2010-2011 Walt Disney Concert Hall
season;

the wrapup of the Phil’s five-week “Brahms Unbound”
festival;

the third and final concert in the “LA Phil LIVE” series
of telecasts into more than 400 movie theaters around the United States and
Canada; and

the conclusion of Gustavo Dudamel’s second season as the
Phil’s music director.

 

Each of those “streams” could be the subject of this article
but I was most interested in how a very mainstream classical music program would
translate to a movie-theater screen. The previous program in March — a pairing
of Tchaikovsky’s music and Shakespeare’s texts — had the advantage of novelty
but today was hardcore, 19th century romanticism: Brahms’ Double
Concerto and Symphony No. 4 in E Minor. That the afternoon worked says a lot
about how the Philharmonic approached this groundbreaking concept and, in
particular, how well the idea fits the style of Music Director Gustavo Dudamel.

 

To compare with this afternoon, I heard Friday morning’s
concert in Disney Hall. In both programs, the Philharmonic played superbly
throughout and Renaud and Gautier Capuon,
were riveting as the soloists in the Double Concerto. Perhaps most impressive
was how eerily similar were the tone the Capuon‘s
got from their instruments; sometimes it was hard to know when one stopped and
the other took over.

 

However, those in the movie theaters got a dose of
added-value insight into this concerto, one of the last orchestral works that
Brahms composed. In interviews with host John Lithgow, Dudamel explained that, years
ago, someone gave him a cassette tape of Isaac Stern and Yo-Yo Ma playing the
Double Concerto. The youthful Dudamel fell in love with the third movement and
wore the tape out in a month. Then Renaud Capuon
revealed that he now plays the 1737 Guarneri del Ges, the “Panette,” that
Stern owned from 1947 to 1994 (which means Dudamel’s tape was recorded on that
instrument).

 

Another fascinating insight came when Dudamel and the
orchestra were rehearsing Brahms Symphony No. 4. In the second movement (marked
“Andante moderato)” Dudamel wasn’t satisfied with how the strings were playing
a key pizzicato section and he tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to articulate what
he wanted. He eventually called it “pizzicato sostenuto,” which sounds somewhat
like an oxymorn. However, violinist Stacey Wetzel and Principal Bassist
Christopher Hanulik both explained how they worked to achieve what Dudamel
asked for. When the passage was played again, Dudamel raised his arms and
exclaimed, “Yes! I want to cry it’s so beautiful.”

 

The most important aspect of the telecasts, of course, are
that they’re available and at a price that most people can afford (I paid $18
for a senior ticket at the Alhambra Renaissance theater and parking is free).
For those who can’t get to a Disney Hall concert (or who are discouraged by the
prices), concert telecasts are a viable alternative. Moreover, for those who
don’t have any sort of orchestra available (and that accounts for a large
number of people in the U.S. and Canada), the concerts may be their only chance
to hear — and see — great symphonic music. And, or course, it’s probably the
only way they will to see Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

 

Even for those who live in cities with orchestras, these
telecasts might spur people to try a concert by their local ensemble. Each of
the “LA Phil LIVE” telecasts has included a general pitch for local orchestras;
Lithgow was winsomely passionate about the subject today.

 

So far the Phil hasn’t released attendance or income figures
about the success of “LA Phil LIVE”. Deborah Borda, the Phil’s president and
CEO, said at the end of today’s telecast that the orchestra plans to move
forward with the project. I, for one, certainly hope so.

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Pasadena Master Chorale at La Crescenta Presbyterian Church

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

______________________

 

Pasadena Master
Chorale; Jeffrey Bernstein, conductor

Saturday, June 4, 2011 La Crescenta Presbyterian Church

Next concert: Today at 4 p.m. at Altadena Community Church

Info: www.pasadenamasterchorale.org

 _____________________

 

Green is the predominant color as Music Director Jeffrey
Bernstein and his Pasadena Master Chorale conclude their third season this
weekend with a concert focusing on elements of nature. It’s also a program that
resonated with the baby boomer generation; even the two pieces that Bernstein
wrote while a college student in 1988 and 1989 and Randall Thompson’s 1959
opus, Frostiana: Seven Country Songs, were
firmly rooted stylistically in the post-World War II era.

 

Except for the ubiquitous Alleluia, Thompson’s work doesn’t show up all that much on choral
programs these days (and Alleluia was
sung last night at La Crescenta Presbyterian Church, led with somewhat
lugubrious tempos by Assistant Conductor Lauren Buckley).

 

Bernstein devoted the second half of the program to
Thompson’s setting of seven Robert Frost poems that the composer wrote for the
bicentennial of Amherst, Mass. in 1959. Frost, of course, was associated with
Amherst and he and Thompson knew each other, so the commission made perfect
sense. Although reports vary as to whether Frost liked the piece, the composer
deftly captured Frost’s familiar words with music that sounds unmistakably
Thompson.

 

The seven movements are arranged in an arch, with the entire
chorus singing the first, fourth and seventh movements, while the women and men
alternate in the other four sections. The Chorale sang The Road Not Taken with elegant simplicity and closed powerfully
with Choose Something Like a Star. The
men’s selections, particularly Stopping
By Woods on a Snowy Evening,
were more balanced and secure than the women’s
offerings. Pianist Shawn Kirchner accompanied with evocative elegance.

 

The other major piece on the program was In the Beginning, Aaron Copland’s 1947 setting
of the first Biblical creation story (Genesis 1:1-2:7). This is a challenging piece for any chorus, and while the PMC
delivered some moments of great beauty, there were others when it struggled
with intonation (first notes of several pieces proved to be shaky all night). The Chorale’s diction was crisp throughout most of the 20
minutes and mezzo-soprano Suzanna Guzmn was the powerful soloist. Kirchner
provided discrete piano support.

 

Bernstein’s The Elm at
the Crossroads
was an effective musical setting of a poem by Walter Hard,
which spoke of a 108-year-old elm tree that was cut down to make way for a road
intersection. The Chorale sang the poignant music with feeling and clear
diction; only some occasional stridency in the upper soprano ranges marred the
chorus’ rich sound. The conductor’s second work, The Echoing Green, a setting of a William Blake poem for women’s
voices, was less effective.

 

One of the Chorale’s educational efforts is to mentor young
singers and several of the students joined the chorale for Alleluia and Ye Shall Have a
Song,
a portion of Thompson’s oratorio, The
Peaceable Kingdom.

_______________________

 

Hemidemisemiquaver:

Guzmn sat unobtrusively in the back of the hall to listen
to the portions of the program in which she wasn’t singing. It was a classy
touch from a classy lady and something that’s not often done by other soloists.

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

Five-Spot: What caught my eye on June 2, 2011

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

______________________

 

Each Thursday morning, I list five events that peak my
interest. Here’s today’s grouping (no free concert this week — sorry):

______________________

 

Today and Saturday
at 8 p.m. Tomorrow at 11 a.m. Sunday at 2 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles
Philharmonic: Dudamel concludes “Brahms Unbound”

 

For the past month, Music Director and the Los Angeles
Philharmonic have worked their way through most of Brahms’ major orchestra
music, plus a healthy slice of contemporary pieces. The final concert in the
survey pairs Brahms’ Double Concerto with his Symphony No. 4. Soloists in the
concerto are violinist Renaud
Capuon
and his brother, Gautier, on cello. INFO: www.laphil.com

  

Sunday at 2 p.m.
Various movie theaters

Los Angeles
Philharmonic on the big screen

Sunday is the last of three concerts in this season’s “LA
Phil LIVE” series, in which a concert is telecast live to more than 400 movie
screens around the United States and Canada. The program is what’s listed
above; the telecast includes rehearsal footage and interviews by John Lithgow.
INFO: www.laphil.com

 

BTW: If you haven’t tired of reading about Gustavo, Tim Page
– who won a Pulitzer Prize for his work as music critic of the Washington Post and now a professor of
journalism and music — has an article on Dudamel beginning on page 94 in this
month’s Los Angeles Magazine. A link
to the magazine’s preview digital edition is HERE. It’s hard to read in this
format; LAM obviously hopes you’ll
buy a magazine instead.

 

Saturday at 7:30
p.m. at La Crescenta Presbyterian Church. Sunday at 4 p.m. at Altadena
Community Church

Pasadena Master
Chorale; Jeffrey Bernstein, conductor

The PMC concludes its third season with a “Green Concert”
that features music about nature and the earth that includes two pieces by the
conductor/composer, along with music by Randall Thompson and Aaron Copland. Mezzo-soprano
Suzanna Guzmn will be the soloist in Copland’s In the Beginning. The performance of Thompson’s Ye Shall Have a Song (a selection from
his cantata The Peaceable Kingdom) will
have 30 singers from the Pasadena Unified School District joining with the
Chorale: INFO: www.pasadenamasterchorale.org

 

Saturday at 8 p.m.
at Terrace Theatre, Long Beach

Long Beach Symphony;
Enrique Arturo Diemecke, conductor

All season the LBSO has been featuring Russian music on its
programs and the concluding concert is more of the same: Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade and Prokofiev’s Piano
Concerto No. 2 with 2009 Van Cliburn gold medal winner Haochen Zhang as
soloist. The evening opens with Menuet
Anteque
by Ravel — ask not why. INFO:
www.lbso.org

 

Sunday at 4 p.m. at
The Neighborhood Church, Pasadena

Pacific Serenades

Concluding its 25th season, Pacific Serenades
presents the world premiere of Rapsodia
Andina (Andean Rhapsody)
by Berkeley native Gabriela Lena Frank. Usually
Pacific Serenades does its own commissioning but for this piece was joined by
six other groups. The program also includes Pacific
Serenade
by Miguel del Aguilla, which the group premiered in 1998. This
program also plays Saturday in a private home and Tuesday at the UCLA Faculty
Center. INFO: www.pacser.org

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.